I bet one of you knows more about this than the airline claims to
May 13, 2014 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Next week I have a short (50 min) layover in Philadelphia on my way from San Francisco to Ottawa. The US Airways person I spoke to on the phone couldn't tell me if I'll need to get from a domestic terminal to an international terminal in that short time. But I bet one of y'all has had a similar-enough travel arrangement, or a lot of experience with PHL that you know the answer.

US Airways from SFO to PHL; code share with US Airways Express - Air Wisconsin from PHL to YOW. On the terminal map it looks like with the exception of F, all terminals are connected.

Any guesses on if I'll need to change terminals/re-pass security/etc when changing from the domestic leg to the international leg?

posted by colin_l to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)

Best answer: All of the terminals are connected post-security except for F, which is connected via airport shuttle (or you can exit, walk, and re-scan... but they don't recommend that and for a tight layover I definitely don't recommend it).

The only issue you might run into is that US Airways Express runs flights out of Terminal F. I don't know what the shuttle schedule is like. Usually F is for dinky regional Express flights, not international, but I don't really know for sure. The SFO inbound flight will almost certainly not land in F.
posted by serelliya at 8:58 AM on May 13, 2014

it's probably doable, BUT the tricky bit is that if you miss your flight- the airline may not actually rebook your tickets free of charge/put you on the next flight, since you aren't leaving enough time to make your connection as per their recommendation. (oh hey I've bought an international ticket at the counter before due to a missed connection because of bad weather... Thank god for travel insurance)
posted by larthegreat at 8:59 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Scheduled flights to Canada from the US generally use the US domestic terminals because of US customs and immigration pre-clearance facilities in Canada for the US-bound leg.
posted by cardboard at 9:02 AM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: According to US Air's flight status for these flights over the past few days, it looks like you will arrive at Charlie and leave from Frank.
posted by ftm at 9:02 AM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: The USairways website says that flight leaves PHL from F.
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:04 AM on May 13, 2014

or what ftm said
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: I used to fly out of Ithaca via PHL very regularly, but haven't much recently, so take this as plausible but not definitive.

You will definitely need to change terminals. A-E are all one connected mess (with a relatively nice mall and meh food court separating A-B from C-D-E. F is significantly further away, and used to suck, but has recently received a major upgrade. It might be the slickest part of the airport now.

To get from A-E to F, do NOT exit; take the shuttle. You will not need to go through security again.

A 50-minute layover is okay as long as you don't have to fiddle with immigration stuff. The shuttles are frequent but unpredictable, and they can sometimes be extremely slow while they navigate the tarmac. (Look, I know we have to yield to aircraft, but do we really have to wait while they remove the chocks from that plane?)

One thing that works for me: when going from F to the main, get on the first shuttle they have. They want you to choose either A-B or C-D-E, but if you're going to kill time in the main terminal anyway, it doesn't matter which end of the mall you arrive at. For your specific question, going from the main terminal to F, you should follow the signs to the nearest F Terminal Shuttle.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:46 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: USAirways would not have BOOKED the ticket if it did not THEORETICALLY meet what is called the 'minimum connect time'. This varies based on whether you are connecting domestically, domestic to international, or international to domestic, but in theory USAirways thinks you can make it. They won't let you book flights with less than this value. The only way you could violate that rule is if you booked the flights as two separate reservations (you didn't do that, did you???)

In practice, YMMV, but if you blow your *legal* connection due to a flight delay, USAirways is, in fact, responsible for getting you on another flight.
posted by scolbath at 10:13 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've made it (via the shuttle bus and running like hell) in 11 minutes during one of those horrible connections out of Ithaca RedOrGreen talks about, which was precisely enough time to just about have a coronary at the departure gate with a lovely view of my connecting flight pushing back from the gate (my inbound flight was significantly delayed). You'll be fine as long as your flight from SFO isn't super late.
posted by zachlipton at 10:25 AM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The F gates are in no-man's land, but it can be done. Don't drag a bunch of shit on the plane with you, so you're relatively unencumbered.

They have great pretzels in PHL, so stop and grab a few as you're hauling ass.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:59 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've never done that particular flight, but I've had a nonsensical layover in Philadelphia on a US Airways flight before. And I did have to change terminals. And it was a gigantic pain in the ass involving waits for shuttle buses and the like.

This was a trip from New Orleans to New York, which made it especially maddening to have a terminal-change layover in Philadelphia (Philly is like a 90 minute drive from NYC). I don't know what the international situation is at the Philadelphia airport, but with US Airways and layovers in Philly, all bets are off. Plan for it to be a hot mess.
posted by Sara C. at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: I don't know what the international situation is at the Philadelphia airport, but with US Airways and layovers in Philly, all bets are off.

As noted above, flights to & from major Canadian airports (of which Ottawa is one) generally arrive at & depart from domestic terminals in the U.S. (thanks to the existence of U.S. preclearance facilities in Canada.)

And for the record, I've flown connecting flights on U.S. Airways through Philadelphia twice in the past year, taking the shuttle both times; in both cases, I found it to be quick and relatively hassle-free.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:42 PM on May 13, 2014

Best answer: The international issue is a red herring in this particular case. You are arriving on a domestic flight and flights departing to international destinations do not have any additional screening in PHL. All US flights to YOW are on the CRJ and leave from F and inbound flights from SFO land in C or B. You should hope for terminal C because the shuttle leaves from gate C-16 to go to the F gates. If you land in C, it will be a super-easy connection

50 minutes is an adequate amount of time to make the connection, if everything is ontime. Unfortunately, PHL is frequently operating under delays especially in the summer. I'm on the flight that leaves SFO at 10am fairly often and I'd estimate it is late about 33% of the time. If you are on the earlier flight (leaves like 7am or so?) it is almost always on time. I don't fly the other flights very often, but the general pattern is that later flights are more likely to be late.
posted by Lame_username at 2:01 PM on May 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. Very helpful. Yup, I'm on the 6am flight from SFO, so sounds like I don't need to worry too much.
posted by colin_l at 2:29 PM on May 13, 2014

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